Visteon India’s country managing director tells Murrali Thalor how electronics is increasingly making its presence felt in vehicles, the mega trends that Visteon is working on globally and why India remains a key growth market for the company.
What are the mega trends that Visteon is working on globally and what is the role played by Visteon India?
Visteon has identified a few megatrends – Sustainability, Connectivity, User Experience. Sustainability refers to eco-friendly applications for both traditional vehicles and hybrid/electric vehicles. Some of the applications used can be lightweight expanded materials, natural fibres or recycled materials and power consumption reduction such as low energy LEDs and low emissions, among others. Connectivity is another global trend. Consumers now want to be seamlessly connected to the outside world through the use of their personal electronics devices like iPod and the internet. And, finally, we believe that a friendly, intuitive and end user experience is more and more demanded and expected by consumers.
Based on the mega trends, what are the opportunities for Visteon India?
Through its four main product groups of climate control systems, interiors, electronics and lighting, Visteon is well placed to transform these key megatrends into direct automotive applications in each of these core product lines. But more importantly, we are able to provide added value by integrating each of these elements to the benefits of the customers and the driver and passengers. Because of our expertise in these four main areas, we are able to identify areas where strategic integration of either the hardware or software can allow more more space, less wiring and simplified architecture. These megatrends also play well to another one of our key strengths in building unique human-machine interaction (HMI). This essentially refers to how drivers and passengers interact with the vehicle. As mentioned before, increasingly drivers and passengers want an intuitive and user-friendly interface.
Electronics seem to be the mainstay of all your products under different verticals. What synergies do you foresee, which will enable you to provide cost-effective solutions to OEMs?
For Visteon, electronics is a key product group. Not only because of the end product we manufacture such as clusters and audio, but also because of the electronics modules required at the sub-component level for the other core products that we manufacture as well. Electronic components are increasingly taking on a larger share of the total cost of the vehicle. The key drivers behind this change are increased consumer expectation for comfort, convenience, seamless connectivity and stricter environmental and safety regulations. Visteon’s automotive intellect and integration capability across various cockpit electronics products and across products in climate control systems, interiors and lighting, combined helps us to provide feature-rich and cost-effective solutions.
About 60 percent of the embedded software is developed at Visteon Tech Centre in Chennai. What are the emerging technologies that the centre is working on? What’s the roadmap for the centre?
We have at the Visteon Technical and Services Center (VTSC) a global centre of excellence in embedded software. With 12 years of experience, it is the largest software activity within Visteon which supports development and application of software architectures and product platform roadmaps. The group has worked on different global audio and cluster programmes, not only for India but also for other markets. It is currently working on advanced audio platforms, model-based design and autocoding of control algorithms, advanced 2D and 3D graphics-based HMI solutions and engine management solution for small engines such as two-wheelers. Having the technical resources on the ground has yet another key advantage – being able to respond faster to our customers. The centre had started with seven people in 1998. It is now a 500-strong team and will continue to grow. As a centre of excellence, it is well linked to other Visteon technical centres around the world. In addition to the software office, we also have an engineering centre in Pune which provides design support for mechanical engineering across our product groups.
What are your product offerings in the two-wheeler segment?
In the two-wheeler space, Visteon’s offering includes instrument clusters and engine control systems. We currently supply to North American, Japanese and Chinese OEMS in different markets. We are currently working on further tailoring these products to meet the unique requirements of Indian and Chinese OEMs.
What is unique about the Powertain Control Module and Driver info?
The PCM-Driver Info unit is an integrated electronic product that combines the functionality of instrument cluster and engine control electronics into one single unit. This integrated system offers system simplicity, space saving and significant cost benefit to customers who would like to launch a motorcycle with an electronic cluster and fuel injection system.
Visteon is expanding its automotive electronics manufacturing operations. Can you elaborate?
Last year, we opened a dedicated electronics building to support the growth of the market. The facility houses new audio assembly lines, surface mount technology (SMT) assembly lines for printed wiring boards (PWB) as well as the current existing driver information assembly lines. The in-house PWB assembly ensures the best quality standards, increased manufacturing flexibility and reduced time to market for new products. By doing this, Visteon has expanded its product line offering in India with its unique scalable audio systems specifically designed for emerging markets. We have increased our capability to offer the range of audio system from the basic media-less audio systems to high-end audios with Bluetooth and voice recognition.
What about your export operations?
India has already proven itself as an export hub for the small car market worldwide. As such,we manufacture climate control systems andcomponents, interiors as well as electronicscomponents for the OEMs who export their cars to the major markets globally. Additionally, we are supplying instrument clusters for South Africa and we have been sourced to export to Europe and Thailand.
What are the opportunities in the ACDI module that you are developing?
ACDI (Audio Control Driver Information) is intended for the ultra-small car and small vehicle segments. It offers various benefits to our customers, such as saving in space, back end wiring, enhanced styling and saving in cost. Customers have been very receptive to this product and we are currently under discussion with some of our customers.
What’s unique about platform-based architecture?
Our platform approach entails the development of a specific architecture to which customers’ unique requirements and features can be further customised. This approach enables us to deliver cost-effective products without sacrificing feature content or quality, while at the same time facilitating easy customisation and upgrades at a faster speed. This also permits us to bring technologies and features that used to be associated with the higher vehicle segments. We have different audio and driver information platforms for the ultra small car to the high-end segments. The platform-based approach helps in standardisation of hardware, giving ample flexibility to append a range of features; the software for these platforms complements to give the differentiation asked for by customers. The platform approach significantly reduces development time.
Are you looking at entering the aftermarket?
Visteon offers dealer-outfitted audio systems but is not currently in the aftermarket in India. We focus on our core strength, which is partnering with our customers to meet their requirements and our relationship with the global and local OEMs.
What is the latest update on the lighting division?
Our lighting operations in Pune are doing very well. Lighting, as electronics, is being used increasingly as a key differentiating styling factor for our customers. The breadth and depth of our lighting portfolio – from basic lighting systems to advanced LED lighting – has been of major interest to our customers. This is yet another area we expect to grow in India.
How much does the Indian operation contribute to Visteon Corp in terms of revenue? How will this change in the next five years?
While we don’t break down the revenues by country, Asia-Pacific sales represented 37 percent of the total sales in the first half of 2010. We expect the Indian automotive market to grow at a double-digit rate and as such, it will continue to remain one of Visteon’s key growth markets. Visteon expects to continue growing much faster than the market.
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